How this young entrepreneur turned her hobby into a fintech startup powered by blockchain
Making money is hard but managing it is not as tough, says 23-year-old Smriti Tomar, who started InvestoAsia, a fintech startup based on blockchain technology this year.
Gurugram- and Hong Kong-based InvestoAsia aims to help retail investors to easily invest in international markets, especially in China and South Korea, which Smriti feels is currently a major difficulty.
The Founder and CEO dubs the platform as a ‘financial lifestyle product’ that aims to redefine personal finance with the power of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and distributed ledger technology (blockchain), to eradicate the inequality amongst the unbanked, unaware, and financially illiterate. The startup, the Founder notes, provides opportunities that were only available to HNIs before and not accessible to a retail user.
“Our innovation is a one-stop platform that offers saving, investing, lending, borrowing, and spending under one umbrella. It has features such as international market exposure, automatic rebalancing, recurring deposits, and tax efficiency with the ability to self-direct your own, personalised investment strategy through our DIY financial tools,” Smriti adds.
She says while there are startups in healthtech sector that help doctors with the historical medical data of a patient to help them treat better, there is nothing for financial health.
“A common man has to access financial services from various market players and hence the data is not centralised. We provide all the tools on the same platform so that the users’ habits of investing, spending, and borrowing are in one place. Our AI can help them lead a better financial lifestyle. This is why we call it a financial lifestyle product. Blockchain, on the other hand, leads to operational efficiency. Hence, it costs lower for users,” she explains. Smriti also says that the company has filed a patent for its technology.
As a teenager, Smriti was busy with equity investments via her father’s Demat account. As soon as she turned 18, she made her own account and continued investing with it. Despite graduating in technology from NIT Bhopal, her interest always lay in finance.
After her graduation, Smriti worked for Citibank’s Banamex, where she got hands-on experience in data analytics. She also got certified as a blockchain developer and expert from IBM and The Hong Kong University, where she worked on Ethereum and R3 Corda, to develop various applications. She says this all worked as a base for her to start up.
The seeds of InvestoAsia were sown when Smriti was working part-time with a broker during an exchange programme from her college in the last year, where she had to help 25 Korean investors to invest in India. At that time, she realised how difficult it is for people to invest overseas, especially in Asia. As a techie and a blockchain developer, she decided to fill this gap, and take an entrepreneurial route. This gave birth to InvestoAsia in 2019.
Being registered in both India and Hong Kong, made it easier for InvestoAsia to focus on the Asian markets and obtain necessary licences. Smriti notes that within months of starting the company, it received recognition from Nasscom, as one of the top three fintech companies in wealth management from India.
“We are also one of the only two companies selected to represent India in Hong Kong. We were one of the top 10 finalists in Conquest by Accel Partners and L&T, and have got recognition from HDFC Bank and NTT Japan,” she adds.
Business model and growth
While Smriti says it’s too early to speak about the company’s growth in metrics, she adds that the platform has on-boarded 650 users, or investors, so far. “We are seeing 30 percent monthly growth in sign-ups,” she adds.
While explaining InvestoAsia’s business model, Smriti says that the company makes money in a handful of ways to support itself, without relying on management fees paid by the customers or commissions.
“We charge zero fees from our customers. We charge market makers for sending trade to process through our platform as well as subscription fee for pro customers. We also charge the merchants who list on our platform,” Smriti says without revealing any specific numbers.
Funding and plans
At present, InvestoAsia has a team of seven members. Smriti has invested about Rs 25 lakh from her personal savings, and some angel investors to build the platform. She says that the startup is on its way to close another funding round, to the tune of Rs 2 crore, in the next two months led by Hong Kong-based investors, to focus further on helping Indian users to invest in successful companies overseas, especially in China.
Going ahead, the startup wants to enable foreign investors to invest anywhere. “We are starting with India, with a plan of expanding to South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries, where there is a huge need for a product like ours,” Smriti says.
The 23-year-old founder is aiming big. She says that she expects the InvestoAsia to become a unicorn in 2023, with a monthly revenue of more than $50 million with asset under management (AUM) of more than $500 million and more than one million active users. She adds that the target is to turn profitable by August 2023, with a revenue target of more than $100 million.
(Edited by Suman Singh)